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Draymond facing leadership crisis as Warriors weather struggles

NBC Sports

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors have more wins than losses, and Draymond Green is blaming himself.

Not out of valor or self-pity but because he knows he has compromised perhaps his greatest asset. A split-second of violence in the preseason, he says, has caused him to soften his natural leadership tendencies.

Green conceded as much last week in a conversation with former NBA star and University of Michigan product Jamal Crawford on the “The Draymond Green Show" podcast.

“I think a lot of our shortcomings this year is my fault,” Green said. “Why is it my fault? Because I have not been the leader that I am and that I need to be for this team. The reason I have not been that leader is also my fault. Right? We all know what happened with your young Wolverine brother, JP (Jordan Poole).

“So, for me, I’ve kind of had to walk a fine line of not really being Draymond.  And when I’m not really being myself, that’s not the best thing for this team.”

Coach Steve Kerr addressed the comment Tuesday after practice.

“Draymond is still our leader,” Kerr said. “Still the guy who is going to be vocal during games, during practice, and he’s doing a great job of that.

“I think his comments were basically that he’s more self-conscious than he would have been because of that incident.”

One moment that went viral has had a taming effect on Green’s conduct. How could it not? It’s much easier to vigorously confront a teammate if that teammate hasn’t seen him resort to fisticuffs. If he’s too emphatic, or puts too much volume in his voice, it could get uncomfortable.

 

The most effective Green was able to instruct and push teammates, at times with the intensity of a blowtorch. This is how he would fortify practice sessions and provide a spark during games, and his fiery disposition generally has worked in favor of the Warriors.

But this is a different Golden State roster. Five players are 21 or younger and probably need more careful guidance from team leaders. A defter touch, perhaps, such as that which comes from Stephen Curry or Andre Iguodala.

“This team is already filled with young, fresh faces,” Kerr said. “So, the leadership that has to come from within doesn’t all fall on Draymond’s shoulders. All of the vets need to contribute to that. Draymond has obviously been our leader. I’ve called him our heartbeat many, many times.

“He feels that way,” Kerr added, referring to Draymond’s self-blame, “so it’s affected the way he communicates with the group. But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Green has been this team’s emotional and tactical leader since 2015, and he was tremendous at it as recently as last season. Just as the Warriors don’t win four championships in eight seasons without Curry, they also don’t do it without Green. He is as essential to their proficiency on defense as Curry is to it on offense.

The incident with JP is not Green’s first public outburst. He crossed the line in November 2018, lighting into Kevin Durant -- indisputably, with Curry sidelined, the team’s best source for a bucket -- for demanding the ball in the final seconds of a tie game the Warriors eventually lost in overtime.

That incident enlarged a cloud, KD’s future, already was hanging over the season. Those Warriors, if healthy, likely would have overcome it to win another NBA Finals. They’d been through a few trials and tribulations.

These Warriors are a more fragile bunch, and Green surely realizes it. He was particular in citing his reluctance to be as quick and firm and loud in his appeals for accountability from teammates. That has been his job, but punching a young teammate makes it exceedingly more difficult.

“We have to really dive in on those things, starting with me,” Green said on the podcast. “I have to be better at holding guys accountable and not stay hostage to the preseason situation. Don’t let it hold me hostage because in turn, it’s going to hold this team hostage.

“I have to come out of that. I’ve been working to come out of that, and I’m starting to turn a corner. I feel like when I turn a corner there, it will allow everyone else to turn a corner. That’s what I feel has been wrong.”

 
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The task ahead for Green is to find that delicate balance between being forceful without being too menacing, being firm and resolute but also compassionate. People are more likely to follow a leader if they believe caring is part of the equation.

Green’s first real test comes Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, who have emerged as the Warriors’ No. 1 rival. Coming off a loss to Brooklyn in which they blew a 12-point lead in the final six minutes, a bounce-back is in order.

Swinging this season in a winning direction requires major repair. Failures have been numerous and persistent. Even repetitive.

If Green can fully turn that “corner,” that might be enough to fix at least one area obviously broken.

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